On March 11, 2015, the Competition Bureau commenced proceedings
against two car rental companies, Aviscar and Budgetcar, for
alleged deceptive marketing practices, including false or
misleading emails, seeking remedies including a total of $30
million in administrative monetary penalties and refunds to
consumers. The Bureau's claims rely, in part, on provisions of
the Competition Act that were added by Canada's
anti-spam law (commonly known as "CASL")
to prohibit false or misleading representations in commercial
CASL creates a comprehensive regime of offences, enforcement
mechanisms and potentially severe penalties designed to prohibit
unsolicited or misleading commercial electronic messages, the
unauthorized commercial installation and use of computer programs
on another person's computer system and other forms of online
CASL amended the Canadian Competition Act to prohibit a
false or misleading representation in any of the following elements
of a commercial electronic message, each of which must be assessed
independently: (a) sender information (the part of the message that
purports to identify the sender); (b) subject matter information
(the part of the message that purports to summarize or indicate the
content of the message); (c) locator information (information,
including a hyperlink/URL, in the message identifying a source of
data); and (d) the body of the message.
Violation of the Competition Act prohibitions can
result in serious remedies, including administrative monetary
penalties of up to $1 million per violation for individuals and up
to $15 million per violation for organizations.
COMPETITION BUREAU ENFORCEMENT ACTION
On March 11, 2015, the Bureau commenced proceedings before the
Competition Tribunal against Aviscar, Budgetcar and their parent
company, Avis Budget Group (collectively the
"Companies") alleging that the Companies
made false or misleading representations to the public regarding
vehicle rental prices. In particular, the Bureau alleges that
advertised prices were not attainable due to "non-optional
fees" imposed during the rental process, and that the
"non-optional fees" were falsely characterized as taxes,
surcharges and fees that governments and agencies require the
Companies to collect from consumers. The Bureau's allegations
relate to advertising distributed through various channels,
including promotional emails that contain alleged misleading
subject matter information and content.
The proceeding is the Bureau's first enforcement action
under the Competition Act provisions regarding misleading
commercial electronic messages that came into force as part of CASL
in July 2014.
The Commissioner of Competition explained: "Consumers are
entitled to clear and precise information when making their
purchasing decisions and need to be confident that the information
they receive regarding additional fees is truthful and
Software license agreements generally require the customer to pay fees for the software license and related services, which fees are usually based upon the duration of the license and the manner in which the customer is allowed to use the software, together with applicable taxes and withholdings.
In less than nine months, on July 1, 2017, persons affected by a contravention of Canada's anti-spam legislation will be able to invoke a private right of action to sue for compensation and potentially substantial statutory damages.
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